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As US Drops Arms Into Kobane, Awaiting UN Praise, Echo of Turkish Loss

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 19, more here -- When the US announced it had air-dropped weapons to Kurds in Kobane in Syria on October 19, there was no mention of the UN, much less of the UN Security Council.

  But the stage had been set: Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura both called for military action. Now will they praise the US action in Syria? How fast?

  Earlier on October 19, the White House issued this read-out:

"The President called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last night to discuss Syria, particularly the situation in Kobani, and steps that could be taken to counter ISIL advances.  The President expressed appreciation for Turkey hosting over a million refugees, including thousands from Kobani.  The two leaders pledged to continue to work closely together to strengthen cooperation against ISIL."

  It rang false, this last line. But on a background call after the airdrops, Senior US Administration Officials said that Obama told Erdogan it would happen.  Asked if land re-supply is being considered, another said that Turkey would be spoken with.

  Inevitably one wonders: if Turkey hadn't so decisively lost its race for a UN Security Council seat on October 16, with only 60 votes to Spain's 132, would its opposition to the US action be more vocal, or considered by the US?

  The US said its "military forces conducted multiple airdrops tonight in the vicinity of Kobani, Syria to resupply Kurdish forces on the ground defending the city against ISIL. The airdrops were conducted by U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The aircraft delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies that were provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq."

   But who's to say the weapons of the Kurds in Iraq weren't the weapons provided by the US and others?

  On October 10 Inner City Press asked UN Security Council president Maria Cristina Perceval of Argentina if any Council member has raised Kobane in the Council.

  No, she said. Video here from Minute 8:04 (initial question in Spanish.)

  Back on October 7 de Mistura jumped in calling for outside action - by Turkey? The UN said de Mistura said:

"The world has seen with its own eyes the images of what happens when a city in Syria or in Iraq is overtaken by the terrorist group called ISIS or Da'esh: massacres, humanitarian tragedies, rapes, horrific violence. The city of Kobane on the northern border of Syria, close to Turkey, has been under siege now for three weeks. There were 400000 inhabitants . They have been defending themselves they are all Kurds- they have been defending themselves with great courage. But they are now very close to not being able to do so. They are fighting with normal weapons, whereas the ISIS has got tanks and mortars. The international community needs to defend them. The international community cannot sustain another city falling under ISIS. Turkey has been very generous in receiving more than 200000 of its inhabitants but what is needed now is concrete action. The world, all of us, will regret deeply if ISIS is able to take over  a city which has defended itself with courage but is close to not being able to do so. We need to act now."

 The UN's noon briefing on October 7, before de Mistura's statement, was rife with questions on Kobane. One correspondent said Turkey had supported ISIL until a year ago; a Turkish state media correspondent then prefaced a question by saying that Hezbollah in Syria should have been raised.

   On October 6, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement, below, calling for action. By whom? Turkey which has its own interested position on the Kurd, and on the Assad government? Ban's statement:

"The Secretary-General is following with grave concern the ongoing offensive by ISIL on the northern Syrian town of Ayn al-Arab, which has already resulted in massive displacement of civilians, including into Turkey, and numerous death and injuries.
"In light of the gross and extensive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law the terrorist group has committed in areas that have fallen under its control in Syria and Iraq during its barbarous campaign, he urgently calls on all those with the means to do so to take immediate action to protect the beleaguered civilian population of Ayn al-Arab."

  While some find it strange to hear a UN Secretary General calling for military action -- the catch line is "General Moon" -- Ban can and does justify it as Responsibility to Protect which he has belatedly re-branded for himself as "Rights Up Front."

   But Ban only came up with "Rights Up Front" after his UN did nothing as the Sri Lanka government killed tens of thousands of civilians in northern Sri Lanka in 2009. Ban did not call for any action to protect civilians then, far from it.

  Either Ban has learned his lesson, or in this case there are major powers that since they have been unable to get a UN Security Council mandate for military action on Syria want the quasi legitimacy, or fig leaf, of Ban Ki-moon's call as authorization.

   Protecting civilians is good -- although Ban Ki-moon's UN has not even called for it in other circumstances. Self-interested military action dressed up as R2P? We'll see. Watch this site.


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